[Editor’s note: Predating the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was An American View. Organized in the aftermath of 9/11, which occurred during Fashion Week, An American View was a group fashion show featuring the work of designers who had not presented their spring 2002 collections before the attack. Here Meredith Melling, who was then a market editor for Vogue, remembers how it all came together.]
In the immediate wake of 9/11, a lot of Vogue editors were reporting to the office. We were doing whatever kind of rescue and relief efforts we could; we were donating clothes to people who were working at the Twin Towers. While we were all in the office together [Condé Nast’s offices were then located in Times Square] working on these things, we were also talking about the fragility of all of these young designers whose shows were canceled. Some designers had gotten the opportunity to show, but then the rest of the week was canceled.
We all know about the delicacy of those businesses; to have no one see your collection and potentially no orders coming in, that could make or break your business. Anna Wintour decided we should put together a show in support of these designers. The conditions would be that it would be a group show. They were identified as designers who Vogue saw had potential or distinction in the market, were doing something really cool and unique, were on the commercial fast track—the same way we ultimately started looking at designers for the Fashion Fund. To qualify, your show also had to have been canceled.
Anna reached out to Carolina Herrera, who donated her showroom as a space where we would host the show. And then the booking editor at the time reached out to all the agencies, and we got whatever models were still in town to donate their time. So the space was free, the models walked for free.
The show was nine days after 9/11, so it all happened really quickly. We held the fittings in the Vogue offices so that the models had one place to report to, and then the designers all came in too. The sentiment that we were encouraging and that all the participating designers were on board with was that this was about giving you visibility, this was about camaraderie, this was the industry coming together. Josh Patner of Tuleh gave opening remarks, and it was agreed that there would be no music. So it was a silent show, which was really interesting. Each designer walked with one model from their segment at the end.
I think what An American View did was it really opened our eyes and got us thinking: How can Vogue help this young designer community more? It really put a spotlight on the fragility of young businesses and how difficult it was to break through. At the time there wasn’t Instagram; no one could make their own noise. They were there just waiting for a Style.com or Vogue to find them and find room for them in the pages of their magazine or in their reviews of the shows. So it was a really eye-opening moment for everyone that we really had to make more of an effort to foster the next generation, and generations to come, of young design talent in New York. And also the feeling was so good around the show, which everyone sort of needed at such a heartbreaking time.
I get choked up now talking about it; I was sobbing backstage. At a time when everyone felt so helpless, it was great to feel productive and that you were doing something. Obviously there were so many bigger things happening for so many people at the time, the loss. But the American fashion industry had to go on; we had to keep moving forward. It was an emotional show. It’s a powerful memory for everybody involved. —Meredith Melling, as told to Laird Borrelli-Persson, September 20, 2021
Below is the write-up published on September 20, 2001.
Conscious that many up-and-coming talents would not have the means to show their collections after Fashion Week was canceled, Vogue and Style.com invited 11 emerging designers to present their work in a collective setting. Carolina Herrera graciously offered her midtown showroom, and top models and stylists waived their fees. With each designer showing only a handful of looks, the result was a rich, whistle-stop tour through an impressive range of alternative visions.
Benjamin Cho describes his work as “creative, without being esoteric.” He made good on his words with exquisitely crafted white ribbon tops and a superb long column dress with a ribbon-laced circular cutout in the back.
Elisa Jimenez is known for her draped, individually customized frocks, which are often sewn directly on the body. Jimenez ran with a fairy-inspired theme that included lattice sleeves and floral attachments.
Pierrot’s knits were first seen on Miguel Adrover’s runway during the spring 1999 season. His second solo collection exuded Old World, sensuous sophistication—witness his subtly shimmering black cocktail dress, crocheted shawls (one sprinkled with gold paillettes), and lavender pointelle top.
Behnaz Sarafpour continued her exploration of black-and-white elegance. Her brief white guipure dress was stunning in its simplicity; a black skirt with a white embroidered apron overlay summed up her confident, powerful aesthetic.
Tony Smith is now in his second season, translating references from the past into sensible, contemporary clothes. Smith’s modern-day gypsy cast a spell in a cotton voile blouse and a navy wool skirt with a gilt lace insert.
Michael Soheil was inspired by 1940s Casablanca, but there was nothing old-fashioned about his off-the-shoulder, asymmetric silk-jersey dress with a high slit. Scarf inserts, peekaboo red square appliqués, and slit sleeves were all part of his repertoire.
Peter Som combines architectural and cultural influences to create youthful, snappy designs. Where else could you find a leather-piped, beaded eyelet tennis dress?
Rebecca Taylor’s girly, kittenish clothes are edgy without being intimidating. The New Zealander’s eclectic ethnic mix included floral-print dresses trimmed with coins and feathers, lace fairy slips, and crocheted camisoles.
Tuleh, the design team of Bryan Bradley and Josh Patner, excelled with their chic, perfectly proportioned take on ladylike dressing. A black-and-white printed coat was cut close to the body and outfitted with large, clear buttons; a snappy suit consisted of exquisitely mismatched tweeds.
Christine Ganeaux has amassed a loyal following of hip downtowners who live for her low-cut, razored trousers. There were plenty of those, flared at the boot, as well as a sexy black wool dress with a side zipper and a ’60s-inspired orange leather coat-dress.
Zero is Maria Cornejo’s line of unpretentious, wearable clothes that retain a distinctly avant-garde edge. Her cotton bodice dress, poncho T-shirt, and hexagon wrap skirt combined urban practicality with Japanese-influenced minimalism.
An American View would not have been possible without the contributions of several individuals and companies who donated their time, services, and products. Vogue and Style.com wish to thank the following for their generosity and support.
Showroom: Carolina Herrera
Modeling agencies: Boss, DNA, Elite, Ford, IMG, Marilyn, Next, T Management, Women (see individual pictures for model credits)
Hair: Danilo for The Wall Group
Makeup: Tina Turnbow for The Wall Group, using Stila and MAC cosmetics
Production: Deborah Hughes, Inc. and Fly Productions